An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Quansongwen 全宋文

Aug 28, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Quansongwen 全宋文 is a complete collection of prose writings of the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The book must not be confounded with the collected prose writings of the Liu-Song period 劉宋 (420-479), also called Quansongwen 全宋文, which is part of the collection Quan shanggu Sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen 全上古三代秦漢三國六朝文 compiled by Yan Kejun 嚴可均 (1762-1843). The first part of the collection (50 volumes) was published in 1994 by the Ba-Shu Press 巴蜀書社.

The custom to assemble all writings of one historical period began with Mei Dingzuo 梅鼎祚 (1549-1615) during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). Although his books Xihan wenji 西漢文紀, Donghan wenji 東漢文紀, Xijin wenji 西晉文紀, Songwenji 宋文紀, Nanqi wenji 南齊文紀, Liangwenji 梁文紀, Chenwenji 陳文紀, Beiqi wenji 北齊文紀, Houzhou wenji 後周文紀 and Suiwenji 隋文紀 with a total volume of 100 juan are included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, they are today almost forgotten. Much more important is the prose collection Quantangwen 全唐文 compiled on imperial order in the early 19th century. In the realm of poetry, the seminal era collections are Quantangshi and Quansongci 全宋詩. However, there were only few collections of Song-period prose writings like Songwenjian 宋文鑑 by Lü Zuqian 呂祖謙 (1137-1181) and Nansong wenfan 南宋文範 by Zhuang Zhongfang 莊仲方 (1780-1857), but these are very limited in the number of writings selected.

A complete compilation of Song-period prose writings was challenging for several reasons. The first is the sheer amount of writings, with more than 100,000 texts written by 10,000 persons (Miao 1986). Many of them are preserved in (complete) collections of individual writers (bieji 別集), with a total number of more than 600. The bibliographical chapter in the official dynastic history Songshi 宋史 (202-209 Yiwen zhi 藝文志) lists 9,815 texts with a total length of 119,972 juan which is twice the amount of writings that were produced during the Tang period. Of these, 4-5,000 texts have survived (Sichuan Daxue Guji Zhengli Yanjiusuo 1988).However, the nature and quality of such individual collections shows great variance. Quite a few texts were reconstructed from fragments or whole pieces quoted in the Ming-period encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典, for instance, Song Xiang’s 宋庠 (996-1066) individual writings Yuanxian ji 元憲集.

Other texts can be extracted from historiographical writings, family chronicles (jiasheng 家乘), biographies, local gazetteers, encyclopaedias, "brush notes"-style essays (biji 筆記), poetry critique (shihua 詩話), tomb or stele inscriptions, books on calligraphy, forewords (tiba 提拔), texts from Buddhist and Daoist archives and sources preserved in Dunhuang (Dunhuang yishu 敦煌遺書). In this way, the editors of the Quansongwen tried to bring together as many texts as possible.

The second problem is the task of collation (see jiaokanji 校勘記), i.e. the critical comparison of the wording of different transmissions. Another difficulty lies in the arrangement of texts. Individual collections would have to reorganized to meet the standardized organization of the Quansongwen. The standards of the compilation (fanli 凡例) would have to be determined before the collaborators would start with their work. Finally, post-Song editions often altered place names according to the then-present condition.

The project Quansongwen was launched in 1985 by the Sichuan Daxue Guji Zhengli Yanjiusuo 四川大學古籍整理研究所, with the support of the Guojia Jiaowei Quanguo Gaodeng Xuexiao Guji Zhengli Yanjiu Gongzuo Weiyuanhui 國家教委全國高等學校古籍整理研究工作委員會. The compilation began with the definition of standards and source materials, which led to the preparation of the principles of compilation (fanli) and an index of authors and titles. The compilation team then compared different versions of texts and selected those of the best textual quality. Differences in wording are critically annotated. Below the level of authors, texts were – as far as possible – arranged according to literary genre, and then chronologically. Authors themselves were arranged according to birth date, with the only exception of the dynastic founder, Zhao Kuangyin 趙匡胤 (Song Taizu 宋太祖, r. 960-975). The order of literary genres is rhapsodies (cifu 辭賦), imperial edicts (zhaoling 詔令), memorials to the throne (zouyi 奏議), public addresses (gongdu 公牘), semi-public letters (shuqi 書啟), dedications (zengxu 贈序), prefaces and afterwords (xuba 序跋), discussions (lunshuo 論說), miscellaneous notes (zaji 雜記), admonitions and inscriptions (zhenming 箴銘), praise and eulogies (songzan 頌讚), biographies and descriptions of conduct (zhuanzhuang 傳狀), stele inscriptions (beizhi 碑誌), laments and laments and sacrifices (aiji 哀祭), prayers and acknowledgements (qixie 祈謝), and other types of text.

Concerning the type of texts to be included, earlier standards could not fully apply to the Song period because new types of writings had emerged, like commentaries on the Classics (jingjie 經解), lectures (jiangyi 講義), sayings (yulu 語錄), comments (zhushi 注釋), "brush-note" essays (biji), poetry critique (shihua), books on material culture and nature studies (pulu 譜錄), family chronicles (zupu 族譜) or annalistic biographies (nianpu 年譜). Such texts were not included, unless they had the character of texts of their own (dan pian zhi wen 單篇之文). Another type of text not included are veritable books, unless they had a particular literary character, like collections of memorials to the throne (zouyi ji 奏議集), theory of historiography (shilun ji 史論集), judgments of calligraphy (shupan ji 書判集), afterwords (tiba ji 題跋集) or rhapsodies (cifu ji 辭賦集) like Wu Shu’s 吳淑 (947-1002) Shilei fuzhu 事類賦注 (without the commentaries) or Taiyigong beiming 太一宮碑銘 by Hu Meng 扈蒙 (Xi Meng 息蒙) et al. A similar problem are the many texts produced by Neo-Confucian writers that can barely left out totally. Series (congshu 叢書) are not included.

The strict time frame from 960 to 1279 posed difficulties as writers were of course active before and after these dates. The compilation team decided to discern between Song loyalists and defectors to the Yuan dynasty, and therefore included some texts written after the conquest of the Southern Song empire 南宋 (1127-1279) by the Mongols. Another criterion for time limit was the age of authors in the year of the regime change, with the divide at the age of 20 sui. Authors included in the collection Quantangwen were not incorporated, unless a particular text was missing in that book. Text written by subjects of the Liao 遼 (907-1125), Jin 金 (1115-1234) and Western Xia 西夏 (1038-1227) empires or produced in the independent state of Dali 大理 etc. are not included.

The book was not published as a whole, but in batches as the volumes were finalized. The first batch of an envisaged total of 180 volumes was published in 1988. Until 1994, 50 volumes were published. The compilation team announced the publication of a volume of errata, Quansongwen buzheng 全宋文補正. The last volume would indexes. After the mid-90s, the compilation process was stopped and only revived in the new century, when in 2003 the Shanghai Cishu Press 上海辭書出版社 took over the work at the huge collection under the guidance of Zeng Zaozhuang 曾棗莊 and Liu Lin 劉琳. The remainders of the book were in 2006 jointly published by the Shanghai Cishu Press and the Anhui Jiaoyu Press 安徽教育出版社. The whole collection with 360 volumes includes 8,345 juan, with 178,292 texts (nearly 9 times as much as the Quantangwen) written by a total of 9,176 persons (incl. anonymous authors; 9 times as much as Quantangwen), and 100 million characters (10 times as much as Quantangwen). It constitutes a trinity with the poetry collections Quansongshi 全宋詩 and Quansongci that is enriched by the (yet unfinished) collection of "brush-style" essays of the Song period, Quan Song biji 全宋筆記.

Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 196.
Miao Yue 繆鉞 (1988). "Quansongwen xu 全宋文序", in Zeng Zaozhuang 曾棗莊, Liu Lin 劉琳, eds. Quansongwen (Chengdu: Ba-shu Shushe), 1-3.
Sichuan baike quanshu bianzuan weiyuanhui 《四川百科全書》編纂委員會, ed. (1997). Sichuan baike quanshu 四川百科全書 (Chengdu: Sichuan cishu chubanshe), 689.
Sichuan Daxue Guji Zhengli Yanjiusuo 四川大學古籍整理研究所 (1988). "Qianyan 前言", in Zeng Zaozhuang 曾棗莊, Liu Lin 劉琳, eds. Quansongwen (Chengdu: Ba-shu Shushe), 1-3.
Xie Heping 謝和平 et al. (2017). "Quansongwen bitan 《全宋文》筆談", in Sichuan Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban 四川大學學報(哲學社會科學版). 2007 (4): 5-10.